Curtains serve two purposes. They need to block out light, and they need to look good while doing it. To block out light – especially in the bedroom, where darkness is necessary for sleep quality – curtains need to be slightly wider than the window they cover, and longer than the window, too. Most interior designers would suggest floor length curtains, but there is no golden rule. You can have any length you like, depending on the overall design of the room.
Floor Length Curtains
Floor length curtains are a safe choice for any room. Ready-made curtains come in lengths from 63 to 144 inches. When you’re picking out the right length of curtains, you should measure from the floor to the point where you plan to hang the curtain rod, and then round up to the nearest inch.
There are two looks which are currently popular:
You can also have your curtains come down to touch the window sill, or sit very slightly above it. This is a popular choice in rooms with several smaller windows, since it avoids a situation where the room feels too ‘broken up’. Measure carefully to make sure the curtains are exactly the right length, because sill-length curtains that are too short or too long look messy and awkward and significantly detract from the look of the room.
Can Curtains Cover Radiators?
You may need to opt for sill-length curtains if there are radiators below your windows. Curtains should not cover a radiator, because when closed they will stop the radiator from being able to heat the room effectively. If you still want the stylish framed look of floor-length curtains, then one option could be to use blinds that stop at the windowsill, and then frame those blinds with tie-back curtains.
How High Should You Hang Curtain Rods?
As a general rule, you should aim to hang your curtain rods four to six inches above the window frame, and have the curtain rod extend slightly beyond the frame to both the left and the right. This will ensure that the curtains completely cover the window and do not let light penetrate the curtains when they are drawn.
Of course, there will be exceptions – if there is shelving to one side of the window, or some other obstruction, then you may not be able to have perfectly positioned curtain rods. For the most part, though, curtain rods should be hung as high as possible. Rods that are too narrow or two low will detract from the appearance of the window once the curtains are in place.
The closer to the ceiling you are able to hang your curtain rods, the better the curtain will look, and the taller your windows, and in turn the room, will appear.
When it comes to the width of the curtain rod, aim for 7 to 10 inches past the window on either side. This will allow you to fully open the curtains during the day, letting in as much light as possible and making the window appear bigger than it actually is. If you have a fairly large room and want to make it look as spacious as possible, then you could go as far as 13 inches either side with the rods, to good effect. Try not to go more than 1/3rd wider than the total width of the window, however, because that could leave the window looking ‘orphaned’ inside the curtains.
How Wide Should Your Curtains Be?
The actual width of the curtains will depend on how ‘full’ you want them to look when closed. The combined width of the panels should be about 3 times the length of the curtain rail if you want a heavy, full and ‘gathered’ look. For a less gathered look, opt for 2 or 2.5 times the width of the rail.
A Few Final Tips
If you are opting for curtains that touch the floor and you are concerned that the floor is not completely even, then a small ‘break’ of 1 to 3 inches will help mask that issue, and make the curtains look neater.
In high traffic areas, floor-length curtains aren’t always a good choice – consider buying curtains that just skim the windowsill instead.
Remember that it is much easier to hem curtains that are too long than it is to extend curtains that are too short. This is why we always recommend rounding up curtain measurements.
When you buy your new curtains, read the label to check the type of fabric, and then carefully press or team the curtains to remove any wrinkles. Remember that synthetic fabrics should be ironed using a much cooler setting than, say, pure cotton. It is still a good idea to press them, though, because visible fold marks are unsightly, and will persist if you simply hang the curtains fresh out of the bag.